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In his book The Life of Birds the author David Attenborough wrote that “Each kind of hunter has its own technique for deploying its weapons.” In the “Meat eaters” chapter he talks about birds of prey and the importance of their vision. My vision is without a doubt one of the first tools that I employ when hunting rabbits or hare. In my previous blog entry I demonstrated my technique in a mini video on how I scan the low ground and hideouts to find snowshoe hare; I then deploy my shotgun if I see one.

Our vision is so important to small game hunters as it is for all forms of hunting. Now unless you are hunting in area where there is a high population density of hare then the task of spotting a hare in the woods becomes that much more of a challenge especially during the winter months. White on White! All predators have binocular vision and I believe that this is one of the most used tools when hunting hare or rabbit. What is binocular vision?

The definition for this type of vision is well described on the Wikipedia website. As a human hunter we simply need to understand the fact that our eyes are placed in the front of the head just like several other predatory species this gives us an advantage to our field of view. This is estimated to be approximately two hundred degrees with the use of both eyes.

However having a large field of view can be considered a disadvantage, this really depends on the situation. For example in my rabbit hunting technique, once I have found a lead, I normally stop and look to the front and allow my peripheral vision try to pickup movement that is not considered normal for the environment that I am in. Trees moving in the wind, snow falling off the branches is natural in the woodlands but black furry tips moving very quickly raises a red flag as do shiny black eyes.

With binocular vision our ability to detect faint objects is enhanced, we have a stronger depth perception. Understanding vergence and stereopsis can help a lot when hunting.

Success in rabbit hunting is being able to spot them before they see or hear you and taking your shot before they attempt to run and hide. This rule also applies to meat-eating Buzzards. Eagles for example have adapted their flight attack pattern for this same very reason, so that rabbits do not scoot away from them before it is too late.

Vision is a very important tool; it would be awesome to have more rods in our retina thus improving the acuity of our vision, especially in low light.

Can you imagine the visual advantages we would have while hunting rabbit if we could see them flick their ears two miles away just like a Buzzard? The challenge then would be to come up with a great technique to close the gap just enough to take a clean shot. So if you can see the rabbit or hare from a distance and are capable of closing the gap with great skill then you may harvest.

Yet even Buzzards must adapt their approach of the attack when coming in for a kill, they cannot just drop down from above or the hare will see them and scoot.

So even with their superior sight they still need to concentrate their efforts into their descent flight gradually adjusting their height and coming down almost to ground level flapping their wings to grab the rabbit with great speed and surprise.

In closing the Buzzards vision is definitely more acute than ours because they have far more rods in their retinas as much as 1000000 in comparison to us 200000/mm2. So even with this visual advantage, they still need to complete the approach for the harvest.

Next time I hit the woodlands, I am going to try a new technique, I will find a lead and mark it with a branch. Then I will place myself off set from the lead about twenty meters away with my binoculars in the prone position and wait to see if the hare’s will move about and attempt to spot one. Watching from far just like a Buzzard. It won’t be my first time lying in the snow but I will make sure there are no coyotes around.

I don’t have the luxury of low-level flying like a Buzzard but being already on the ground I will try to get as low as I possibly can. I want to be able to find, see and close in on the hare and attempt to harvest. If it works I will call it the Buzzard method!

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After having made some final adjustments to the way he placed his boots in the dirt, there he was standing very still in what seemed to be a comfortable shooting position. He was breathing in normally and with his left hand carefully gripping the underside of the forestock, he then pulled the butt plate tight into his right shoulder in anticipation for the shot. Click! The safety went off, three breaths went in and on the third one he let out half a breath, his index finger was straight pointing down range resting on the trigger guard.

Under my careful instructions he slowly moved his finger onto the trigger with just the tip of his index touching the steel. “Simply release the shot and fight the anticipation.” I whispered and I could see the barrel moving slightly up and down in the final milliseconds. Crack! The shot rang out and then a tearing and a thumping sound followed as the bullet ripped though the paper target into the sand pit. It was a great shot with the bullet landing just one click to the right of the bull’s eye.

This was his first shot from a .22 rifle and several more shots were taken in preparation for his chance to harvest small game. I then set him up with the Remington 870 and he fired a few more shots from eighty feet away.  He was always on target with an average of three to five-inch groupings with the .22 and his patterning with the shotgun was very good as well. Once the shooting at the sand pit was completed and the rifles were zeroed, our plan was to hunt small game for the rest of the day, this meant Woodchuck, Rabbit or Grouse.

We were now getting ready to shoot the .303 British to make sure the bore sighting and mounted scope were in shooting order for the upcoming deer season. I was just about to take out the ammunition from its box when all of a sudden flying in from a southerly direction a flock of thirty geese flew in over us and systematically folded their wings to land on the small lake to the north which was to our right about one hundred feet up the dirt road. 

My hands locked up the .303 ammunition and rifle with lightning speed and we then grabbed our balaclavas and zipped up our mossy oak pattern jackets all the way up and ran up the road towards the hay bales, that were just feet from the water.

The wind was blowing in from a south-easterly direction bringing in a cool air, it was about ten degrees Celsius and the birds had just landed on the north side of the lake. So, once we reached the lake, I asked my young friend to sit tight by the boat on the eastern side of the lake and to keep a look out for geese. I made sure my Remington 870 was loaded with the right shot and then I moved my way north toward the geese on the eastern side of the lake.

It was not an easy lake to get around, the forest went right up to the edge of the lake and on the north side there was a swamp. So, I decided to move further away from the edge of the lake and attempt to flank and scare them into flight allowing me to take a great shot at the chosen bird’s underside. Once I reached the middle of the lake on the eastern side, I turned inward toward the water and started to stalk, it was such as difficult stalk because the forest floor was littered with dead leaves and branches and it was really tricky not to make noise. I had to focus on my breathing to make sure it was not too heavy and I was extremely excited. I got within one hundred and thirty feet and one of the birds spotted me between two pine trees and started to let out some honks, and then several of them let out some more honks and bunched together then moved to deeper water on the north-western side of the lake.

Damn! My first approach did not work and it was going to get more difficult for me to go around the lake because I now had to cut through the swamp and a small creek that was feeding the lake from the north-east.

Once my first plan  failed to work moreover lost my element of surprise, I decided to move back away from the water edge careful not to scare them into to flight and then I headed north-east again this time I was to go through the swamp and make my way around through the cattail and attempt my scare approach again. This took me the better part of an hour and I was already feeling my muscles screaming for oxygenated blood.
 
I jumped from the embankment onto a small mud island that was connected to another with a small log acting like a bridge. This crossing saved me some time, and once in a while I would look up and see where the geese were floating and then I would press forward again.
 
After a few leaps and hops through knee-high mud and quietly knocking about a few cattail I finally made it to the north side and now I had go down on my hands and knees because the bush was so thick. On my way to the ground I startled a grouse which in turn startled me the bugger. And if that wasn’t enough I went right under a cedar tree that housed a very upset chipmunk that was squeaking at me with great assertiveness. “Ok ok…I will leave you alone” I muttered and then inched forward some more and this is when the stalk became even more difficult. There was a very large tree stump separating me from the water and let us not fail to mention some mud piles and swamp brush.
 
So, you guessed it, I got down on my belly and leopard crawled over the log and to the water’s edge. I was now lying down facing south my feet pointing to the north and I had to wait for the birds to swim into range in order to jump shoot. This would send them into flight and I could take my shots.

After a few tense moments the geese to my left finally came into range. I lifted my barrel from the mud soaked ground cleared a few bushes in front of me and lined up my bead sight with the nearest bird. I immediately jumped up to my knees and it sent the flock into a crazed takeoff flight then switched the 870 off safe and took my first shot.

I had been trying some new ammunition and the patterning just did not work, the bird that I had lined up in my sight did not even flinch. I believe that throwing rice would have done a better job. By the time I got to a full standing position all the birds except one got away, which for some reason broke away from the flock and came circling around right above me, so I pumped my shotgun in a split second and pulled the trigger the loaded shotgun shell jammed in the breach and by the time I got it out the bird had gone.

The last goose got away and he let my own 50% chance drop on me like goose droppings but I will be back and there will lots of opportunities for my apprentice and me and I will most definitely change back to the ammunition I used before.

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